These dynamics led numerous European, Korean, and, more recently, Chinese car and truck manufactures to establish license manufacturing agreements and even full joint ventures with Iranian automakers. Iranian auto parts makers developed the supply chain to provide the local parts content on which Iranian policymakers insisted. The manufacturing of the Renault Tondar, known as the Dacia Logan in most markets, saw Iranian spare parts manufacture obtain “Grade A” certifications from Renault. Following the new investments committed after the implementation of sanctions relief in 2016, there were growing expectations that Iran would become an exporter of European-branded automobiles to regional markets.
Notably, the new post-JCPOA investment was intended to facilitate the partial privatization of the state-owned manufacturers. Through the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization (IDRO), the Iranian state was set to become a minority shareholder in the new Renault joint venture. A similar deal was struck between Daimler and Iran Khodro Diesel for the manufacturing of Mercedes-Benz trucks in Iran.
Allowing foreign firms to be the majority shareholders of their joint ventures was an important shift in industrial policy for the “strategic” automotive sector. Such policy was also intended to address the long-running issue of inefficiency and poor productivity among the state-owned automakers. There were also a number of deals between foreign automakers and private sector firms in Iran, such as the agreement between Volkswagen and Mammut, which has produced Scania trucks in Iran since 2008. Scania’s persistence in the Iranian market has earned it a commanding market share of over 60 percent.
Clearly, prior to the re-imposition of sanctions, Iran was set to deepen its dependence on foreign investment to drive growth in the automotive sector. In the case that sanctions are once again lifted, that drive for foreign investment would no doubt resume. Iran’s automotive market will remain attractive, but foreign automakers will want to be sure that any new round of sanctions relief will be durable.
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